The effects of target-masker sex mismatch on linguistic release from masking

Brittany T. Williams, Navin Viswanathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Listeners often experience challenges understanding an interlocutor (target) in the presence of competing talkers (maskers). However, during linguistic release from masking (LRM), this difficulty decreases for native language targets (English) when paired with different language maskers (e.g., Dutch). There is considerable evidence that the linguistic similarity between target-masker pairs determines the size of LRM. This study investigated whether and how LRM is affected when the streams also differed in talker sex. Experiment 1 investigated intelligibility for English targets in sex-matched and mismatched conditions with Dutch or English maskers. While typical LRM effects were obtained when sex was matched, opposite effects were detected when sex was mismatched. In experiment 2, Mandarin maskers were used to increase linguistic dissimilarity and elicit stronger LRM effects. Despite the greater linguistic dissimilarity, the surprising reverse LRM effect in the sex-mismatch condition persisted. In experiment 3, the target stream was held constant and talker sex and language were manipulated in the masker. Here, expected LRM effects were obtained for both the sex-matched and sex-mismatched conditions. This indicated that the locus of the dissimilarities and not just relative properties affect LRM. Broadly, this study suggests that using naturally varying listening situations advances understanding of factors underlying LRM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2006-2014
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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